The Time I Was Just A Big Joke To Old Friends
Or, The Everlasting Pain of Nihilistic Post-Ironic Millennial Humor
North Hollywood, 2015
I sat there in the ticketing booth, playing both House Manager, Stage Manager, Writer and Director for my first-ever produced play, Clarence Wakefield is Falling Apart. In our little 42 seat theatre, maybe half of the tickets had sold for the night, culled from foot traffic and an aggressively annoying online marketing campaign to get people to show up.
A special time in my life, I had recently let go of the self-consciousness that typically consumed me whenever I tried to "put myself out there" or "try something new." I had written this play therapeutically and knew staging it would come with the reopening of old wounds and the vulnerability of showing them to everyone and letting them bleed all over their eyes and ears.
No, I thought, not this time.
My then-fiancé-now-wife took the Herculean job of Producer even as she herself was busy staging two musicals with a different theatre in Hollywood (or, Hollywood Prime.) As Producer, she essentially was my cheerleader but also a check and balance on what I was trying to pull off with my directing or ongoing script revisions. Either way, she got me over the finish line and convinced it was okay to try something, whether people liked it or not -- my chief reason for never really trying in the first place.
Then two old high school friends I had not spoken to since my first year of college, 7 years prior, walked through the door...
For this story, we will call these old friends Crankbot and Wheels, both of whom I knew in high school, Wheels since Freshmen year and Crankpot since Sophomore year, when I joined Theatre. Again, harkening back to the Vietnam vet story, Crankbot was the dude who yelled at me in the middle of an improv scene because I would not shut the hell up.
Wheels, on the other hand, was part of a separate ecosystem of friends I became close with in middle school. In fact, this little ecosystem all lived within the same neighborhood -- they could see each others' houses from their living rooms.
A History of Showing Off
In high school, I was a confusing mixture of under-and-overachiever. I was probably two years behind in math -- not because I didn't understand -- but because I didn't care. Yet, in theatre, I strove to be "better" (a term whose subjectivity I couldn't grasp at the time) than everyone else. Maybe it was in an effort to rail against my being overweight, maybe there was a competition in me that I couldn't not embrace.
If you read my story about the time I was heckled by a Vietnam vet during a play, you'd understand how obnoxious I and the rest of our theatre company were.
Maybe this rubbed Wheels and Crankbot the wrong way. Maybe they wanted to increase the size of my britches and put me in my place. After all, a year later at lunch with an old friend, I learned they thought I thought I was better than other people because I simply moved to Los Angeles. Nothing could be further from the truth yet here we were.
Back to NoHo
I was honestly ecstatic to see them enter the theatre. I was wrong to have ever doubted their support in the past, especially since I felt we grew apart. It didn't help that in my jealous days, I used to spy on Crankbot's email (he had once stayed logged in on my computer) to see if my girlfriend -- and eventually ex-girlfriend -- was messing around with him. Reprehensible behavior, yes, but I was 18 and did not know any better, so I forgive myself.
There was some tension left over from our days together but seeing as I thought I had reformed, I decided to let all bygones be bygones and it seemed they decided the same. So, I gave them free tickets and they sat through all 75 minutes.
It should have been clear they did not want to hang out with me after. They feigned exhaustion and wanted to get back to their Air BnB, but I persisted. "Let's get coffee next door! I want to catch up!" My fiancé knew better but she tagged along anyway, afraid to break my heart with the bitter truth.
Midway through our meal, they let it be known they had been in town for a few days. In fact, they had been in Santa Monica, seen sights, and lived it up in Los Angeles. They did not bother to tell me.
Then, it came out.
"Yeah, we basically drove 6 hours for a joke!" And they laughed and laughed and for some reason, at the time, I simply ignored that comment. Later, my fiancé sat me down and made me really consider what they said.
They were in town for days. They drove down as a "joke." They thought my little play wasn't shit, just fodder for their own brand of anti-comedy I had grown accustomed to via Facebook for the last few years. Not funny then, definitely not funny now.
What I Learned
To quote Slipknot, "People = Shit."
Okay, in all seriousness, I felt betrayed and stabbed in the back. It took days of silent self-punishment to convince myself, despite what they thought of my work, I still did the fucking work.
I learned very quickly that some people will just show up to tear you down and while fucked up, that's fine, because that's a reflection of them, not you.
But it still left a mark. It rendered me scared to ever talk about things of which I'm proud, for fear people will not take it seriously.
Then, my mom died and after noodling on how to best cope with the loss (and subsequent self-analysis of my retrospectively weird childhood), I decided the best way was to do what I do best.
So I wrote a book. It's called ATLAS PERSONALITY and the only way to get it is to join my email list.
Seriously, it's that simple.
Do it. Because I'm not afraid to put myself out there like this anymore. I wrote a book. The fuck have you done?